JACK ROUSH "Can I jump in just a second? Last year there was a lot said about if we won the championship in style or if we backed into it. We didn't have much to work with last year. The Taurus - we got our templates for our Taurus in 1997. ...
"Can I jump in just a second? Last year there was a lot said about if we won the championship in style or if we backed into it. We didn't have much to work with last year. The Taurus - we got our templates for our Taurus in 1997. In the meantime, the only consideration we've gotten since '97 was to revise the front air dam by one inch. In the meantime, the Chevrolet had been improved three inches and had gotten two body revisions two sets of templates after that and the Chrysler had gotten a new front end in addition to having a chance to work on our car for 18 months before they submitted their original Dodge set of templates. In 2004 we have the first chance to get meaningful improvement to our car since '97. When we started last year, the engineers and aerodynamisists and the shock folks knew everything about that car. It was optimized when we started the year and we did do very well with the car early in the year before everybody else figured out how to use their new Dodge nose, use their new Pontiac and their new Chevrolet. Toward the end of the year, we were dead meat. At different times when some people didn't understand that I would hold my nose to get through the year - take the abuse we would get for looking like we were not racing hard and wait for a new set of templates that would give us a chance to catch up. We've got an aerodynamically equal car, as far as I know, as it relates to drag and downforce. The change in the tires and the change in the spoiler really made it a jump ball to where the things that people understood about the cars - that they didn't have to change over the winter, the Chevrolets and the Dodges, they understood about those. They had to come back and adapt to the tire and the spoiler, so that really put it on a level playing field. We've got an equal car and we started off with nobody knowing exactly how to address the tire. Matt and Mark and the guys have raised to the task as they always do when they have a chance."
DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR DOMINANCE HERE LIKE DEI HAS AT DAYTONA?
"What I said about Mark and the way he addresses a race track and the things he instinctively looks for and the inspiration he is to all the crew chiefs and to the shop managers and everything sets the signature and the personality of Roush Racing. We like to go at race tracks where we can attack the race track and where you don't have to be real tentative with it and you can go for it. By the same token, a race track where you recognize you've got so much life in your tires and they're gonna go for so many laps so hard and if you go too hard too early, you won't have enough for later - that's also something that's Mark's meat. The things that he has asked for over the years - this is our 17th year and the things that we've built into our program address the problems that you face on this race track very well. The first time we came here we were able to win. That was great. The first time we went to Texas, a brand new mile-and-a-half race track we were able to win. That was based on the strength of Mark's wisdom and his approach to these race tracks that are so similar."
ANY CONCERN ABOUT THE SCORING SITUATION THESE DAYS, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE BUSCH RACE SATURDAY?
"Being in the race, I don't really know what all happened yesterday with the scoring and everything. Mike explained it good at the driver's meeting today. There was a chance for confusion when you do this because a lot of different things happen under green flag pit stops, so I'm comfortable with it all. I've never been a fan of the lucky dog rule. It's not just because I've never needed it because I am gonna need it at times. I'm sure I'll use it plenty of times and I'll like it when I do use it, but I just think maybe it's a little bit too much of a gift and not really based on performance. But I understand why they do it. Not racing back to the caution is definitely 100 percent the right thing. It's a lot safer for us as competitors and it's safe for the fans if something happened over the fence or whatever. It safe for the safety crews getting out to get us. It's better for everybody."
"It's all of that and the whole issue of NASCAR scoring is really not being fair to NASCAR. They're doing the best job they've ever done with regard to knowing where the cars are. I know in the first five years that I was here, starting in '88, there was at least three occasions where they'd stop the race for maybe three to five minutes to sort out what happened as they looked at everybody's cards. Right now we've got enough electronics involved that they're able to count the cars. They're able to see on the cameras and they're able to count electronically. All they have to do is go back and make sure that one of these electrons didn't miss a chance to connect when it should have and just make sure that the cards back up what the electron measurements say. They're doing a great job with it. The race drivers and the race crews are obviously at some kind of risk when we go to the race track. If we didn't want to be at some risk, we wouldn't get in our airplanes and fly out here and we wouldn't get in our cars and go do this, so we accept some risk. But the folks that come to help us - the medical people and the people with their towing rigs and the people who clean the race track and all - they don't need to have risk. We don't need to be running over them. We don't need to be scaring them. We just need to slow down and get ourselves organized and get ready to go racing again. That's what NASCAR has done. However they count who is on pit road and when they decide the thing gets frozen is really arbitrary and as long as they do it consistently, it's fine with me. It was for a good reason and they're doing a great job."
HOW DID THE NEW PACKAGE AFFECT THE RACING TODAY?
"There's definitely a difference in feel. When you're behind a car, you're still getting aerodynamically tight somewhat. No matter what they do, as long as there is car in front of you, you're gonna a little bit because when you set your car up, you set it up basically in clean air to be balanced. When you take any air off the front, it's gonna be a little tighter. But I didn't think it was nearly as tight as it was last year. I liked the tires a lot better because if you abuse them too early in the run and wear them out, like when I was trying to catch those two, if I would have gotten the right-front worn out, I would have backed up and the cars that were handling better would have passed me at the end of the run. So it not only makes you set your car up aerodynamically and go out and run as hard as you can run on those tires and beat them the whole time, it makes you have to think a little bit and know how hard you can use them and know how long you're gonna need them and what they're gonna be like at the end of the run. So I think it brings the chassis setup - the springs, the shocks and the swaybars more into play than what it did before because a lot of times last year at tracks like this and Kansas and Chicago - you could get the car aerodynamically how you wanted to. Even if the chassis wasn't set up right, just get it so it has the most air on the car and you could run really, really fast and never hurt the tires.
"Whereas now I think you've got a better chance of hurting the tires if you do that. If you just set it up aero and don't set up the chassis with consideration of saving the tires, I think you can hurt them. As a racer, it makes a better race."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET OFF TO A GOOD START?
"It certainly means that we spent our winter well. With a chance to get a new set of templates for our Taurus. The Ford engineers and all the engineers on the team that were involved did a nice job. I think we have a competitive car and that feels good. We went testing. We built cars with different aerodynamic signatures over the winter and they were obviously different and they all weren't right, but we've hit on some things that are OK. We'll have lots of that as the year unfolds, unless we find something that looks better to us. It's great to have success. It's great to have the guys feeling like they didn't miss an opportunity to improve themselves and it's great to have Matt winning two when there was a criticism that we all felt for whether or not we'd race as hard as we could even though we were racing our guts out all year - whether we were really doing enough to deserve the championship we got last year."
ARE YOU SEEING THE BENEFITS OF THE NEW CYLINDER HEAD?
"Let me ask that question as part two to a question I'd like to answer. On the engine program that we've got going this year, we have had a chance to put together the best elements of Robert Yates and Doug Yates' engine program and the best elements of the Roush engine program. They were different and there were distinct strong points on each. We're about 80 percent of having the best elements put together. I'm not gonna tell you which things we lack, but one of the things that happened today - the 16 - leads me to believe that we don't have something in our program as good as we had last year as it relates to durability in that part. I'm guessing what failed and I'll know more about that Tuesday or Wednesday, but we're 80 percent of the way marrying those two programs together. There was more improvement realized by both of us by putting our programs together than there was for the single consideration of a new cylinder head. The cylinder head is big because it provides geometry that we didn't otherwise have that the Chevrolets had and the Dodges had and that Toyota is gonna have in the truck program, so it got us on the same page as far as geometry. But we have made a great improvement in our programs based on every Ford car having the 20 years of knowledge or so that's gone into building these engines apply to last year's standards. Having said that, the new cylinder head is better. It is gonna be an improvement for us. I suspect that we'll be ready to race it at Fontana. We might have it at Texas. Certainly it won't be at Atlanta, but the big thing we've got to concentrate on is making sure we don't have an epidemic of broken parts and we've got to move slowly in trying to make that next step."